in Check It Out, Parks and Rec, Raleigh


Looks like you can add another urban critter to the list of critters seen in my East Raleigh neighborhood: coyotes! A neighbor reported an encounter with one this morning in the Woodcrest neighborhood:

This morning at about 6:30 AM I saw a coyote walking across Dennis down towards Banks Street. I also saw a couple of foxes around Lions Park late Wednesday night.

Keep an eye on your pets when you let them out. There seems to be several predators living in or around the neighborhood.

Last week, a friend told me of an encounter he had last month on the Middle Crabtree Creek greenway. I described it to my friend John Connors who works at the Nature Research Center:

May 17 was Bike To Work Day and my friend Bob was leading a pack of Wakemed employees to the hospital along the Middle Crabtree Creek greenway. Before they arrived at the boardwalk across the wetlands, Bob watched three deer go racing across the path in front of them. A moment later another animal appeared behind them, one that Bob says was not a dog, not a fox, and maybe not even a coyote.

He tells me it was big – bigger than he’d expect for a coyote. After doing a little Internet research afterward, he thinks it may have been a wolf. He says the crowd with him all went silent when they saw it appear, too. It was like they knew they were seeing something unusual.

Have you heard any reports of wolves in the Triangle area? A friend who frequents that greenway told me years ago of a coyote sighting she once had there. Bob seems adamant that it wasn’t a coyote.

How unusual would a wolf sighting be around here?

Upon hearing of this morning’s sighting, John sent me this:

This isn’t surprising, coyotes have now effectively colonized the entire state of North Carolina. They are relatively recent immigrants to the state…expanding their range from the west in the last 20 years or so. Foxes, of course, have been here all along. Foxes are not likely to cause any problems for people’s pets, other than free-range chickens or kittens. Coyotes, however, are a larger predator and they will take house cats and small dogs as prey. They are most active at night, so that is when these pets are most at risk.

The population of coyotes should never become so large that they will constitute a major problem, so I would expect local reports of problems from individual pet owners to be the norm.

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission has labeled the coyote as a pest with no legal protections- ie. year-round open season with no bag limits. That won’t eliminate coyotes but it will keep populations down somewhat, especially outside urban areas and park settings.

And there is an upside to having coyotes in an urban environment- they do seem to help control burgeoning populations of feral cats, raccoon, deer and Canada geese.

Now it makes me wonder if that altercation I witnessed between my porch cat, Jupiter, and an unknown beast might have been with a coyote, not a fox as I guessed.

Bonus: coyote info from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Update 12:57 PM: Just spent a fascinating 15 minutes chatting on the phone with Greg Batts, a wildlife biologist with the NC WRC about the reports of coyotes and bears in the Raleigh area. Areas of coyote sightings include around Yates Mill area in south Raleigh, Umstead, US1 near Shearon Harris, and around 401 and the Neuse river.

Greg also suggested if you encounter a coyote, do what you can to frighten it so that it does not associate being near humans as a good thing.